Archives For John Frame

In a sense, only God creates. Only God can “stand” in the “middle” of complete nothingness and call as-yet-non-existent things into being. We call this creation ex nihilo: “out of nothing.”

So we can truly look at every aspect of our world and say, “God made this.” But as every parent knows, it gets more complicated when your children start asking, “Did God make cars?” “Did he make your computer?” My fumbling answers to these questions have gone something like, “Well, yes. He created the metal that the car is made out of, and he created the minds of the people who put the car together.”

Only this week have I begun to realize the true genius of God in this respect. It was John Frame who helped me think this through as he wrote about human choices: How is that we go through life making decisions based on our desires, and yet the Bible is still able to insist that God ordains all that comes to pass? It’s an old question, and I wasn’t expecting any fresh insight.

But Frame began talking about “our participation in God’s creativity.” He says,

“Our choices among possible alternatives image the choices that God himself has made in eternity, and they serve as the means by which God actualizes and rejects possibilities in history.”[1]

When we go about creating in God’s world, we are making choices, and in doing so we are acting like God, following his image, which he placed within us. But it’s bigger than us simply making choices. It’s that as we create in this world, God is creating. He is working through us to create. Our acts of creation are both ours and his—we are making the creative decisions, and in doing so we are playing out God’s perfect eternal plan.

The Creation of Adam

All of this is guaranteed to hurt your brain if you try to comprehend it entirely, and the mere raising of this topic sends people scurrying for their copies of Attacking Arminians or Countering Calvinists. (If those aren’t books yet, they should be.)

But this is why Paul is able to thank God for the Philippians’ partnership in ministry. The Philippians chose to work together with Paul; Paul saw their involvement as the working out of God’s plan. This is why Joseph was able to point to the same event (being sold into slavery) as both the evil intention of his brothers and the good plan of God (Gen. 50:20).

Now let me cut the urge to argue short: I’m not interested here in settling the fee will vs. predestination debate. What I find fascinating here are the implications for human creativity. Ultimately, we create because God made us in his image.

“Much about the divine image is mysterious, because God himself is mysterious. But among other things, there does seem to be something in us analogous to God’s creativity…”[2]

Dorothy Sayers looked at the context of the “image of God” passage in Genesis 1:26 and says that the only thing we know about God leading up to this is that he is the Creator. All he’s done in Genesis 1:1–25 is create. So when God sets out to make a being “like himself,” he seems to be creating another creator. Sayers identifies this as at least a part of what the image of God means.

Here’s why it matters. God has a plan for history. God formed this world with his words and his fingers, and he has not stopped speaking, he has not stopped shaping. Everything—everything!—from the largest imperial expansion to the slightest shifting of the smallest grain of dust is seen by God, known by God, captured in the interest and attention of God.

And as we step out into this world to create, to shape, to dream, God is stepping out to shape the world through us. When Steve Jobs created the iPhone, God was shaping his world through Jobs. (The same goes for whoever invented the Android, everyone calm down.) When I hug my daughters, God is wrapping his arms around them. When I work, play, sing, sleep, and eat, God is working out his plan for this world. My choices (at least, so my experience tells me), his plan.

(As an aside, let me just acknowledge that this gets much darker when we ask where God is in the evil moments. For example, where is God when an innocent man is wrongly accused, beaten, and murdered? But according to the Bible, God is still working out his plan in those types of events: Acts 2:23, 4:27–28.)

So be assured, God is still working in this world. And he is all of the time working through us. We are his image-bearers, his mini-creators, his world-shapers. Let’s be careful to shape his world in ways that fit his mission and highlight his glory. And let’s be confident that in all of it, God’s plan is being worked out, drawing ever closer to its good and glorious culmination. God has never taken his hands off of his world. He continues to work in it in deeply mysterious and incomprehensible ways. And he also continues to work in our creative decisions, shaping his world through our hands and feet and mouths.

 

 

[1] John Frame, Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2013) 837.

[2] Ibid., 836.

Bible 2In the previous five posts, we have been examining the historical circumstances under which the Bible was written and compiled. We have also been considering the reasons that we can be confident that the Bible is trustworthy.

But it is important to understand that our confidence in the Bible does not rest solely on historical evidence. Studying the historical evidence can be helpful and we can see God’s hand in the formation and preservation of his word. But in the end, no amount of historical evidence can dispel all of the uncertainty that we may feel.

In other words, historical studies are important, but they are not likely to prove conclusively which books should be considered part of the canon. So I am going to relate an argument that I picked up from John Frame as to how we can be sure of the Bible’s genuine authority.

John Frame believes that the Word of God is its own authority. Here’s the thing. If we claim that the Word of God is our highest authority, then we cannot appeal to some other source (a church council, historical data, etc.) as the ultimate validation of its authority. So Frame reasons from biblical concepts and statements in order to confirm our canon.

Think about this. From the inception of the nation of Israel, God’s people have always had a canon (a collection of authoritative writings) through which God has governed his people. Initially this was the Ten Commandments, then God added the whole Mosaic Law, then the book of Joshua, then the Writings, the Prophets, etc.

Moses and the Burning Bush (Domenico Feti)While no human being was permitted to add to it (Deut. 4:2, 12:32), God himself could, and he chose to add to the canon in specific ways at specific times. Not only did God give his people revelation, but he also providentially ensured that they would recognize this revelation as his words. For example, when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, he didn’t have to wonder if the voice was God’s. He somehow knew. Or when Moses heard God speaking from the burning bush, he somehow knew that this was God speaking to him.

The same pattern holds true in the New Testament. The writers seem to have been aware that they were writing Scripture, and their words were accepted as the Word of God (see parts 3 and 4).

Frame also finds the purpose of God’s revelation significant: it was meant to create a covenant agreement with his people and to govern their lives. Basically, God spoke so that his people would hear and act. It is therefore inconceivable that God would give his people revelation and then allow that revelation to be lost. For these (and other) reasons, Frame believes that we can trust the canon we now possess.

Did you catch that? God has always possessed the ability to communicate with his people, and when God speaks, his people don’t have to wonder whether God was really speaking to them. They know the voice of God (John 10:27). And because God speaks to his people so that they will hear and act according to what he says, why would a God who is fully capable of effective communication allow his words to us to be lost or perverted?

We can be sure that our Bibles are the word of God because we have confidence in who God is and how he interacts with his people. Confirming evidence is always helpful, but ultimately the authority comes from God himself. If he wants to speak to us, then his authority will reside in the words he speaks. And that is exactly what we find when we open our Bibles. A loving, powerful, authoritative God speaking loving, powerful, authoritative words to his people.

And if God is speaking to us through his word, we would do well to listen and obey (2 Pet. 1:19, James 1:22).